Our Board Members

An Opportunity to Give Back – Why I’m a Board Member

I received a BA in International Studies/African Studies and an MA in International Human Rights with plans of working for an international nonprofit and traveling the world. Instead, I graduated on the heels of the Global Recession and ended up pivoting and starting a career in academic medicine where I have been ever since. 

Flash forward 13+ years, and I am now in a position – career-wise and financially – where I am ready to give back. I knew that I wanted to seek out a board position with an organization that works internationally, and I joined the Board of Hope Shines in March 2020. Hope Shines’ mission and values directly reflect my own core values and beliefs— we should all have access to education and the ability to have our basic needs met, and children should have the opportunity to thrive and to be children.

Hope Shines provides supplemental, wrap-around support to children in Kigali, Rwanda. We run an after school program where primary school students can come for tutoring, a hot meal, and safe drinking water. On the weekends, primary and secondary school students come together and learn traditional African dance — in a pre-pandemic world, the dance troupe would perform at local hotels and events, generating modest revenue to continue the programming. Through fundraising, child sponsorship, and grants, we financially cover the cost of school fees, uniforms, supplies, and health insurance for 44+ students. The parents of the students are part of a six-person Parents’ Committee, providing peer-to-peer support and advocating for the work and mission of Hope Shines. Hope Shines’ staff in Rwanda conduct home visits and surveys with the children and their families to ensure we continue to serve and address their needs. Regular meetings and communication allow us to revise and adjust our programming as needed — all the while keeping the needs of the children at the forefront. 

In addition to being a Board Member, I am also a sponsor for one of the Hope Shines’ students. It’s always a pleasure receiving updates from them, and sending letters of encouragement back. I find fulfillment in the opportunity to pay-it-forward and to be a source of positivity and encouragement for the children. 

Joining Hope Shines as a Board Member has given me the opportunity to re-engage with my interests in international work, advocate for education, and promote public health. I am grateful for the opportunity and look forward to the day when I can travel to Rwanda and visit the Learning Center in person.


~ Pema Richeson – Board Member

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